ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s tight end meeting room broke out into applause to recognize a teammate.
The players weren’t recognizing a big block by Arthur Lynch or a grab by Jay Rome, but the sacrifice made by a someone whose name is probably unfamiliar to fans.
Geoff Rapp knew he wanted to become a member of the Georgia football program while he was a world away, serving nine months in a combat zone in Afghanistan as part of a special operations task force of the United States Marine Corps.
“My respect for him is out the roof,” Lynch said. “I know, well, I don’t know, but I’ve heard what they have to go through. Obviously, you serve our country, you deserve a standing ovation wherever you go. What they sacrifice is a lot more than what we sacrifice out here.”
Rapp played tight end and defensive line for North Cobb High School but said his interest from college football programs started and ended with one Division II scholarship feeler, which didn’t spark his interest.
So when a Marine recruiter phoned Rapp after getting his name from a friend who had already enlisted, Rapp took interest. He told the recruiter he wanted to join the special forces.
Rapp was a convoy commander, running over 300 convoys of mine resistant assault protector vehicles Afghanistan, where he served from June 2010 through April 2011.
While in Afghanistan, Rapp kept in touch with Georgia director of strength and conditioning Joe Tereshinski, who oversees the walk-ons.
“He knew I wanted to play ball for the school,” said Rapp, a native of Schenectady in upstate New York who moved to Georgia at 12 when his father’s job brought him to the state.
Rapp received some college credits through Copper Mountain (Calif.) College and completed five online courses through Georgia Perimeter College while in Afghanistan.
“That was pretty grueling, working 10, 12-hour days on the road coming back,” Rapp said. “Everybody else goes back to bed and I had to go study for six hours.”
To join the football team, he still had to go through a walk-on tryout, which he made.
A year later, Rapp is 23 years old and is spending his second preseason with the Bulldogs as a redshirt freshman.